Jonesboro native reflects on anniversary of Newtown shooting

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Twenty-six lives were taken in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting one year ago.

Region 8 News talked to a Jonesboro native on the phone Sunday who was minutes away from the shooting and knows some of the victim's families.

Jane Gates said when the news broke, the entire community was paralyzed with shock and confusion. Gates said now, one year later, they are just trying to heal.

"A town, surrounding communities were just in total shock to believe that this kind of violent behavior was directed toward all these youngsters, these really young children," Dr. Jane Gates, Provost and VP of Academic Affairs at Western Connecticut State University, said. "It was just absolutely unbelievable for all of us. We were mourning."

Gates said the entire community is still mourning one year later.

"Something that remains with us this very day was the loss of those beautiful children. These families refused to become victims and allow hatred to permeate their daily lives," Gates said. 

Instead, Gates said these families have worked with the community to spread awareness about mental health issues and build communities around love and compassion.

"The youth who committed the crime, clearly this was a youth who had a mental illness that simply wasn't addressed, wasn't dealt with appropriately," Gates said. "It's a tragedy that occurred, but it's something that's made all of us much more of the kinds of things we must take responsibility for and do within our own communities."

Sandy Hook Elementary has since been torn down, but the city and families of the victims are building parks in their honor to make sure each of their lives are never forgotten.

"It's really creating a legacy for those innocent, vibrant, bright youngsters whose lives were shortened," Gates said.  

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